OKLAHOMA CITY — Tennessee’s SEC opponents won’t lift a hand this weekend to help the Lady Vols at the Oklahoma City regional.
Still, they’ve received credit for helping during the season with the preparation.
“I think it’s faster-paced, more talent, teams are bigger this year,” said senior Kamiko Williams, who lauded the addition of Texas A&M. “I think that has helped us out.
UT coach Holly Warlick agreed.
“I think it’s a physical conference; it’s an athletic conference,” she said. “It’s just a conference you can’t take lightly.”
Seven conference teams made the 64-team NCAA field, and four reached this weekend’s Sweet 16. Along with Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and LSU advanced.
The Big 12 has a similar profile with seven tournament teams, and three reaching the Sweet 16. Defending national champion Baylor along with Oklahoma, UT’s opponent on Sunday, advanced in this regional. Kansas is in the semifinals of the Norfolk (Va.) regional.
RealtimeRPI.com ranks the Big 12 No. 1 overall in RPI. The SEC ranks third.
Scoring Match-up: Both Oklahoma and Tennessee feature big-time scorers in their backcourt.
UT junior guard Meighan Simmons, the SEC co-player of the year, is averaging 17.3 points per game and has made 37.6 percent of her 3-point attempts.
Oklahoma junior guard Aaryn Ellenberg is averaging 18.9 points and has hit 42.2 percent of her 3-point tries.
Offensive Series: Scoring hasn’t been a problem for the Lady Vols against Oklahoma.
UT has averaged 80 points while winning four of the five games in the series. Tennessee has scored more than 90 points twice and has never had fewer than 70 against the Sooners.
Dynasty Bears: Not many programs can relate to the success that defending national champion Baylor has experienced the last three seasons.
The Lady Bears, who play Louisville on Sunday in the other Oklahoma City regional semifinal, are 108-4.
Tennessee’s best three-year stretch was from 1997-98 through 1999-2000 when it went 103-7.
Baylor Gauge: If you use the Lady Bears as a measuring stick, Oklahoma has a slight edge on UT.
The Sooners lost to Baylor in Waco by 17 points. Tennessee lost to Baylor in Waco by 23.
Oklahoma also lost to Baylor by 22 in Norman, Okla.
Nice Addition: Two years ago, Bria Smith chose Louisville over Tennessee. The Cardinals are glad she did.
The sophomore guard is a starter who’s played the last 19 games at point guard. She’s averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Durant Fan: The regional is being played at the home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves is a fan of Thunder star Kevin Durant.
“He’s so smooth; all of his moves are so smooth,” Graves said. “Everything just flows.”
John Adams contributed to this report.